We post this zine by the Catholic Worker community members about the recent land forces expo protests. Thanks to Bek, Jim, Andy, Hannah , Anne and others who put this zine together and especially those who went and stood out in the cold each morning to disrupt this show of military might at the Convention centre.
LOVE AGAINST THE MACHINE
(People in love with world, stopping actual machine)
Written and Published on the lands of the Bundjalung and Yuggera Peoples(so-called NSW and Queensland Australia)
Issue #7 June 2021
At the beginning of June, Land Forces, the largest weapons expo in the Southern Hemisphere was held in Brisbane/Meanjin.
The weapons industry is full of well documented corruption. People often refer to the revolving door of personnel between the military, government and arms industry. One example of this in Australia is the ex defence minister, Christopher Pyne, walking straight out of his government position and into a lucrative position in the arms industry.
These people profit directly from war. They make profits on and the violence perpetrated in West Papua, Yemen, Kurdistan and Palestine.
These weapons are also a major contributor to environmental degradation and cause of climate change.
Based on this knowledge, the Catholic Worker community joined other local and interstate groups in protesting the Expo. In the 6 months leading up to it there were protests held at various weapons manufacturers in Brisbane. In the days leading up to the expo 5 people were arrested for stopping deliveries of tanks and AV equipment. During the 3 days of the actual Expo a continuous protest was held and various actions took place to #DisruptLandForces. This zine tells some of those stories, as well as others.
The City Planner Cars on Cornwall Street, Backed up in growing heat,
Friday afternoon traffic, Driving to doom no static,
The stress on people, Not felt by the drivers Of machines that are all unseen,
Deals done in secret Long forgotten by
(TANK PUN TITLE HERE)
Mental illness and modern masculinity are a pretty crappy mix.
5 weeks before the arms expo, I was struck with severe panic attacks and depressive episodes. I had just completed a 200km walk from Sydney to Canberra (I joined about 1/3 of the way through). I knew I had been slipping down the mental health slope before the walk and thought a nice long walk for a good cause would help boost me or stem the slow creep into despair.
Your brain tricks you when you’re a man with these issues. It’s not real, you’re just lazy. It’s not real, you’re just weak, toughen up.
You end up spending more energy fighting your illness then doing the things you know you should be doing, socialising, exercise, prayer, getting a routine going.
These things slip out of reach you feel too tired or anxious to get out of bed or your safe zone
to do them. Each social interaction that leads to anxiety, dizziness or a panic attack makes you feel weaker. So you push through anxiety and keep up with everyone else. This tires you out more and makes things worse, so you retreat to draw and read where you can or zone out on screens when it is all too much and your mind a grey fog of disreality.
Life passes by you put apologies in for meetings and people castigate you for not doing things you wanted to do, but just could not get your health together enough. It is a kind of living death, with weeks passing by, hoping to escape the worst of your emotions, avoiding the recesses of the worst of the depressive thoughts- if this is my life from now on, what is the point?
Battling yourself, makes you tired. Seeking connection with people, makes you tired, gives you head spins and makes you feel weak. So you retreat some more. And you’re in the cycle,
Of course, the outside world
continues on, messages pour in about the weapons expo coming up down the road from your street. I want to help organise, to get involved. I push through the grey fog of my treacherous brain to get to some actions. Adrenaline during confrontation, in the moment clears your brain- of course there is a price to pay. But as they say in the song ‘they’re killing children over there’.
After 5 weeks on my bum, I respond to a message for support. “We need a media team for Friday”. I can do media, its monotonous and boring, also low key and easy to do. So, I agree to come in and meet. Thursday afternoon, I catch a bus and ditch my computer and phone at the office and walk 500m down the road to a local park for what young activists like to do these days and have a “phones free meeting”.
We sit in the park for 5 minutes discussing the plans, I raise my head for a few moments and
see a dark, square metallic object on the back of a truck heading down a small road. “Oh crap, they’re taking tanks in today, not tomorrow!” Jarrah looks up, but the tank has gone “Are you sure?” he said. I shake my head “No, but we better go check.”
So we run the 700m to the convention centre (first decent exercise I have had in weeks! I think quickly followed by my anxiety ‘will I have a heart attack and die now?’).
But soon we are there, and the cursed machine is sitting in the waiting bay, outside the convention centre. With no phone and no plan, Jarrah runs back to the office for support. I’m not sure what to do but decide that this is a good time to do the mindfulness thing. I slow my breath and feel my body. If it moves into the convention centre and I’m still alone, what will I do?
I look at the machine. “Rheinmetall- Autonomous Combat Warrior”. I realise this small tank is a drone. I had read
about Rheinmetall and other companies developing Artificial Intelligence for warfare. This was a drone that, when perfected could be turned on and go and kill people without human control. Rheinmetall is a new major player in the arms company that got its start selling barbed wire to the Nazi’s during the Holocaust. It now sells its blasphemous wares to Turkey who use it to kill people in Kurdistan and to Indonesia who use are using their military to wage war on West Papua. How long before tank drones like this would be used on villages in these places?
After a few minutes, the truck driver returns and, I know I was not letting it go in. I sprinted across the road and point to the security guard at the gate, making ‘kill it’ motions across my neck (an old country sign to turn something off or shut it down). Panting, I arrive in front of the truck. The security guard genuinely concerned asks ‘what’s wrong’. I rise from my panting and point at the drone.
“That thing will kill kids”.
The tank stood there for 5 hours. After friends had turned up to get on top of the tank, I joined them. All of them got down except for Jarrah and I. Anxiety pushed its way into my mind several times, but I could move around, sit down, or cast my eye on the 100 supporters who had turned out at short notice. “Thanks but no tanks” read a newly minted banner, paint still fresh.
After 5 hours a fire brigade cherry picker arrived, and we were taken down. The last big hit to mental health had been my arrest 6 months before for an extinction rebellion protest. After being granted bail by the court, watch house police held me for a further 4 hours in a cell with another prisoner crazed with anxiety. It was punishment for what the police saw as lenient judges. So, my anticipated 12 hours stay in December stretched into nearly
24 hours, I struggled for a bit after that.
Going into the watch house this
time, I knew I had already handed myself over to the State. Children were being killed in Papua and all around the world. My mental health and incarceration would have to take its own course. Going in this way I was totally relaxed. After a night of broken sleep, I was foisted into a small cell with 9 other men awaiting court. Realising my fate was not in my hands, I let go of my anxiety and relaxed as I went in. With no explanation, for the first time in months, I felt in my place. This place was cold, dehumanising, and horrible. “It’s not the best place in Brisbane to hang out” I said as I sat down, “but it might be in the top 10”. Laughter broke any tension as an older Maori man said, “Welcome to our humble abode!” Everyone shared their story and concerns.
I had no plan on what to do with my charges the pressure to plead guilty and get it done with, meaning less stress and anxiety, versus my passion for raising awareness about war in
any area I can. With a ridiculous charge of “Obstruct Police” I plead not guilty. I spoke to a University of Queensland professor who tells me developing AI weapons in Australia is illegal. I will run a trial, be found guilty and take the punishment. Likely I will suffer anxiety. It is hard being slightly disabled in a space like activism that values capacity, lots of organising meetings and constant work. Productivity seen as needed to bring down the war machine. On top of that, finding a capacity to earn some money (like a bad Catholic Worker, I rely on the State to fund my income- I just got ruled ineligible for disability, but also recognised as not able to work due to mental health for at least two years) and maintain relationships.
The odds of me seeing that drone was one in a million, or much higher really. I was not planning on being involved in anything too heavy due to my mental health. The odds of a machine like that being parked
outside the convention centre long enough to be stopped was another one in a million. Whatever my mental health issues or suffering that might result from charges and a trial, would likely have been the same if I had not taken the action. And it is nothing compared to the suffering of those in war torn countries overseas.
I don’t claim to know much about the Will of God or faith these days. I just knew when I saw the drone being moved into a convention centre, to be traded and talked up- if I were someone in West Papua, I would want that thing stopped, or at least attention bought to it. I have so much wealth and privilege, plundered from the majority world and the earth. All I can keep doing is living out, as imperfectly as I can- the Teachings of Jesus. Breaking myself will not do any good but following cues to resist war and preach for life is the main thing in my life that brings meaning, a practical submission to something higher than me and
my own life. And maybe if a few more people could do this, with a miracle, maybe we could slow down the slaughter of people for our rich western lifestyle. Maybe we could ease the ecocide and climate collapse that is arriving as we speak. And maybe, just maybe, that is what faith is all about.
Building and exporting these weapons to countries suspected of committing war crimes is illegal under Australian Law. And I don’t want to drone on, but I ran out of puns for the title.
Trying to find one was like trying to tap an empty tank. I was trying to think of puns but was stopped in my tracks. Think of the best tank pun title, send it to me, the winner will get a turnip. I will let people know when court will be, some months from now.
Reflections on Disrupt Land Forces
The Climate Angels with magical art outside the Arms Expo.
So, I know I can’t speak for all the kids but I can speak for me so I will.
The first day a group of 20ish people went to see/learn about some of the weapon manufacturing companies that was good to learn about.
Then the next day Tuesday about 7:00am we went to the Brisbane convention centre which means waking up at 6:30 to get there and stand in the cold shade holding a banner but a little bit later we got to make as much noise at these war making rich people’s as we wanted, there were pots and pans there were whistles and plastic horns (which became known to us kids as Tootermaphones),there were megaphones and microphones we made so much noise that the police( there were over 40 police) all got ear plugs then we followed suit and got ear plugs too, then made more noise.
We had lunch brought down from the hall, I think the police thought we would have to go for lunch but no not us, later I was back at the hall and was invited to join a conversation about a dumb way to get arrested so I told the people, a man and a woman “but that is a dumb way to get arrested why not do a cool arrestable action instead?” And the lady asked “like what?” so I suggested: “What about super gluing myself to a tank?” that is when the man said “we could do that!” We spent the afternoon discussing how and what the casualties would be I talked to a lawyer on the phone who said I should not do it but when it was all planned my mum caught a whiff of what was happening and said “it is a good plan but my daughter is not getting arrested at 13”, the lady said if I didn’t do it she would for me.
On Wednesday we arrived at 7:00 to stand in the cold again a little bit later mum grabbed me and my sister and told me you can’t glue yourself to a tank but you can be an Angel so we raced up to the hall asked around ,were given white Angel costumes and told we would be climate angels we got white face paint and red lipstick and then wings mine were pink my sisters were green ,oh and we got halos too some angels got balloons filled with fake blood when we were all ready went very slowly to the convention centre in single file, because our wings were huge we threw the balloons on the concrete acted sad because of the spilled blood then slowly went back to the hall washed and changed then went back down. some other protesters The Socialists came yelled a bit made some noise then left.
Shortly after they left at about lunch time, some 20 protesters after getting a signal, broke in to the convention centre, 5 of the protesters got on a tank one of the people even locked themselves to it, outside the atmosphere was awesome we had police bolting up the front stairs almost tripping up over themselves a man was inside livestreaming the whole thing until a cop who was watching the live stream asked him, are you livestreaming this? The man said “No” and turned off the livestream. All 5 people on the tank got arrested and so did the lady who was doing it for me 17 people got arrested then.
Krystal dancing at the “Smash The Patriarchy” protest party.
Jim was arrested with Andy atop a truck bound for the arms expo. Faced with punishing bail conditions that would have barred Jim from returning to the resistance, he stayed in the Brisbane Watch House for almost a week in protest. Andy was fined 1000 dollars by the State that just coincidentally is mates with the arms dealers. Small world
By Any Means Necessary?
The above words are famously attributed to Malcolm X. I first
saw them on a badge back in the 80’s or 90’s. Ironically Malcolm X’s murder was almost certainly ordered by Elijah Muhammad after Malcolm had rejected The Nation of Islam’s strange perversion of Islam, for a more traditional one. Elijah Mahammad almost certainly believed in the slogan “by any means necessary”, and was following this belief when he ordered Malcolm’s murder.
I have always been a strong opponent of any “ends justifying the means” morality, and I was quite shocked to hear the words used by a speaker at a blockade of the recent Brisbane Land Forces arms fair. At the time, myself and Andy Paine
were blocking trucks delivering to the exhibition by standing on the roof of the one in front of the boom gates. I was wearing a spectre of death costume and throwing out fake money, thereby making the connection between
killing, greed, and war profiteering.
We managed to stop vehicles for a number of hours, so many people from the crowd around us made speeches. One of these speakers was addressing oppression in
the Philippines. He started by defending the need to use violence to fight oppression. When he ended with the call to fight “by any means necessary”, he got a loud applause.
The accompanying loud boo from the spectre of death was largely drowned out.
The Brisbane arms fair was met with a week of concerted resistance by over a hundred activists. There had been over a year of dedicated and difficult organising by just a few people, most importantly Margaret Pestorius from “WAGE PEACE”. I would say the resistance was a huge success by most standards and you can read and view much of it by simple google searches of Wage Peace.
I think it is unlikely the Convention Centre will host another event like this. It is hard for me not to compare the event with the
91 Aidex Arms exhibition in Canberra. Hundreds of anti-war activists, including a mini-bus of Catholic Workers from Brisbane, blockaded that event. I was arrested or dragged away by police numerous times. The police were very violent, certainly more so than at the recent event. (Though some people were at the receiving end of police violence in Brisbane also). At AIDEX I Was thrown onto the road a number of times by the police and had a limp for 3 months after I returned home.
Certainly, on a surface level, the 1991 event could be termed a great victory. The planned biennial conference was abandoned after that year.
But how has world peace progressed since then? And where will we be if the future
Brisbane arms fair is abandoned? Certainly, the arms industries in Australia have not diminished since 1991.
The recent Australian government funds pledged to the multinational merchants of death is almost unbelievable. The Federal government has pledged
$300 billion dollars to “defence” industries over the next ten years, with the obscene goal of putting Australia in the top ten nations in weapons manufacturing. Obviously we may have won some battles, but we are losing the war. Badly.
What to do in the face of this seeming disaster? I do not have the answer. But I am sure whatever we do, means are the most important thing.
The most common Gandhi quote going around today is “Be the change you want to see in the world”. If we want to see a world of violence where everyone abuses those we see as the enemy, then we should abuse our enemies. If we want a peaceful world, we need to love our enemies, as Jesus taught.
Jesus went to the cross a loser, reviled by almost everyone. What a lousy end! If only he had used violent means! But instead, Jesus told his disciples to put away their swords. “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” On the cross his only reference to his torturers and killers was “forgive them for they know what they do.” Jesus seemed to be a loser at the time, coming to a terrible end, but he was to become the most influential person in human history.
At the recent actions against the arms industry, there were many justly angry young people who knew little or nothing about the nonviolence of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Dorothy Day. Let me make it clear, their courage and generosity in giving their energy to this important cause was truly inspiring. But, it seems no one has explained to many of them that we cannot build a better world by demonising the enemy. All police are NOT bastards. People involved in the arms industry are NOT “scum”. They are just fallen human beings like you and me. We have a duty to resist the violence of war and the military industrial complex, but not by the absurd and contradictory concept of “any means necessary”.
The saddest part of all this is that organisers made a conscious decision NOT to ask everyone to abide by a request not to swear at, or insult police or participants in the exhibition. Instead, on the first night, it was clearly stated that swearing at these people would not be objected to. When I heard this, I called out “I will!”
Just to address the argument that I am “judging” people: (People who are anti-Christian often use this Christian admonition (judge not) to attack Christians. This is pretty funny really.) To be clear, I am not judging anyone here. Not the arms dealers. Not the police. Not my fellow resisters. Not the organisers. I am simply calling on all of us to use pure means, not “any means necessary”.
There is no human enemy to be defeated. There are only the forces of evil to be defeated – “principalities and powers” as St Paul put it. This is done by loving our enemies, returning good for evil. The Russian Czars were replaced with Stalinist Russia, the Chinese Emperors were replaced with Mao and brutal communism. What will replace the arms dealers and Western Capitalism? Who knows? But, to paraphrase Emma Goldman, if there is no love of enemies “it’s not my revolution”.
Ellery Update – Hannah
Well Greg has just asked if I could write an article to contribute to this paper, squeeze it in between home-schooling, breastfeeding our cranky, teething baby and generally keeping the family going, oh yep that should work, oh, but it needs to be done in time to go to NZ with Franz, so tomorrow… Thanks for believing in my multi-tasking prowess Greg!
Nah, I actually feel pretty stoked to be invited to participate 😉
Josh, Jasper and Hannah at the vigil for Palestinian children killed in recent attacks by Israel.
We recently joined others in a ‘festival of resistance’ protesting against weapons manufacturers and the wars and destruction that they support and create, at the land forces expo in Brisbane, It was a really good experience as a family, if a little chaotic (says she, with 6 busy children) we spent some time in the lead up making some big, bright banners and gearing our home-schooling around war, weapons, violence and why we choose to fight against these, and in what ways are we actually complicit in them, even though we try not to be, (which has started us looking into if running our vehicle on biodiesel or vegetable oil could be a good option for us, but
that’s a while off as it includes changing to a diesel vehicle instead of our petrol one…)
At the protest (in between counting my children to make sure I hadn’t lost any) I enjoyed seeing how many types of people we had, on all our different journeys, united together in this cause, with so many different ways to speak or act in rebellion to this injustice that was taking place before us.
Some styles of protest were definitely not my cup of tea, but is there a ‘wrong’ way to non-violently fight against violence? I suspect that my style of protest is too ‘nice’ (I’d like to say ‘peaceful’) to be effective, so I think it is a good thing that they are not all like me!
The most profound experience for me was when we were given the opportunity to grieve in solidarity with Palestine, we were given the privilege of holding photographs of over 60 of their children who were recently killed and saying their names and ages together, it was a powerful, heartbreaking service.
It was special to see our kids making a stand, they were pretty staunch holding banners and generally participating during the whole festival, we are so grateful to everyone who made us all feel welcome, that even though there were hardly any other kids, it was still a family friendly environment. (I bet land forces couldn’t claim that!) Daniel (7) and Freya (3) have been
playing “protests” quite a bit since then, so I was not surprised when I heard Daniel crying out “Blood on my hands! Blood on my hands! Blood on my head! Blood on my hands!” I figured it was all part of their game, and it took me a while to realize that he had managed to cut his head without
noticing and was actually freaking out about why there was suddenly blood all over his hands and head, poor kid!
Other than that, we are fairly well, slowly building our home, planting fruit trees, developing a garden and trying to follow the quiet whisper of God in our lives. I think that’s about all from us for now,
May the peace of Christ be with you all.
Editors Note: The Ellery’s were so staunch in the hours they did and hours holding banners. They honestly held the line for hours when almost no one else was there. Their endurance and dedication was inspiring. Standing on cold concrete for more than 12 hours a day with small people, police and loud noises everywhere was not easy.
COMMUNITY AND protest
by Andy Paine
It seems this edition of Love Against The Machine is a bit of a Disrupt Land Forces special, so that at least saves the work of thinking of a topic. But I thought I would write from a slightly different angle, viewing the protests through another lens popular with Catholic Worker types – that of community.
The gathering of a couple hundred people in South Brisbane for a week to disrupt the weapons trade was a type of community – people joining together to try to achieve more than alone. We spent a lot of time together, picketing and organising but also eating and socialising. It’s interesting to analyse how the community aspect connects to the aim of stopping the arms trade, and also how the act of protest helps us with the other aim of building community – a world where people seek to help each other out rather than just look after themselves, “a world where it is easier to be good”.
Certainly, community makes protest much more effective. One person, or a group of disparate individuals, would not have much hope of having a significant effect on an arms fair. But a group allows for a stronger physical presence, for a broader range of ideas and abilities, and a bigger support network.
All the different actions during Disrupt Land Forces required a number of people – those who physically stood in the way or otherwise disrupted, the photographers and media contacts who helped the world to hear about it, those who did the logistics and mundane tasks behind the scenes.
If we take a step back, we might say that no individual ever does all the research about a political issue or comes up with possible techniques of protesting it – all political engagement depends on some level of connection with others.
There have not been many large anti-war protests in Australia in recent years, and the scale of this one was enabled by a concerted effort of community building. Most obviously by Margaret, who has concentrated much of the last six months on connecting with everyone from Quaker grannies to young radicals to refugees, building a network of resisters. But there were other factors that enabled this. The round the clock occupation last year outside the Kangaroo Point refugee detention centre forged a lot of ongoing connections that were present at Disrupt Land Forces, as has the long-running campaign in Queensland against the Adani coal mine. The presence of Dorothy Day House in Brisbane as an example of everyday community resistance was important too – there were many people at Disrupt Land Forces whose connection to the protests came through the house and its broader network.
So all these tendrils of community connection helped make a powerful week of anti-war activism. But what about the other way around? Does political protest help to build community? I think it does.
A shared purpose is one of the best ways to connect with others – to find our commonalities, and see how we can achieve more together than alone. When our lives are lived purely for our own happiness, other people are just as likely to get in the way as to help that aim. But as we have seen, achieving social change requires groups of people; and folks who would normally seem to have little in common can find strong connection through a shared cause. Hopefully those connections can extend beyond that single cause to a general understanding that our lives are entwined with others, whether or not we seem superficially similar.
A common purpose is also necessary for strong community. Any group requires maintenance to stay healthy, but just focussing on the internal dynamics can get groups bogged in minor disagreement, forgetting the commonalities that joined them together initially. Without a channel to focus our energy outwards, it can all get directed at each other – causing unnecessary conflict and draining enjoyment. Political protest is certainly not the only external purpose a group could have, but it is one that always has plenty to do and constantly reminds us there is a world out there beyond the small details of living together.
Activism is also an activity that allows for a broad range of skills and interests to be honed and used. It is different from much of how we envision “work” in our society, as there is no boss telling everyone what to do, and no limiting activities to only what’s deemed profitable. It requires a lot of different skills, but also gives space for creativity and exploration of ourselves and what talents we actually possess. Disrupt Land Forces was a good example. There were a wide variety of tasks people could attempt that they may otherwise not get a chance to – from street speaking to photography and making loud irritating noises; painting banners to mass cooking, facilitating meetings and plenty more. Everyone was encouraged to brainstorm creative protest ideas then put them into practice.
I think there are actually quite few situations in life where this is the case. From schooling to work to consumer society; we are so used to struggling to keep up with what we are told to do, never mind having the space to find out our real skills and passions and how to use them to contribute to a better world. Political activism gives us a chance to discover that and to see ourselves as individuals who have something unique to contribute to the whole, not just to take or be exploited.
The Catholic Worker movement has always seen community building and social change making as intertwined, and I think the two complement each other. Both community living and social change are nice sounding ideas; but trying to put them into practice requires a lot of work and self- sacrifice, a bit of heartbreak, a splash of creativity and the occasional conflict. But both ultimately teach us that what’s best for the world and for individuals comes when we look beyond own desires and seek the well-being of all.
Gratitude for Great Blokes and Other Mothers
One of the perks of being a Catholic Worker is you get to meet the kindness in people. Often they are complete strangers who you don’t get to repay either.
Yesterday it was three blokes who helped me start my car in a car park. Two of them didn’t even need to be asked, they just stepped forward to help.
This brought to my mind the many times blokes have helped me when I was stuck broken down in our old cars. I am so very grateful to them. Now, just in case the beginnings of thought murmurs about what sort of feminist I am happen, let me assure you all that I have fixed cars by myself many times. Three times I had to unbolt the driver’s seat from underneath the van, unclamp the fuel line, and blow it out. Then I put it all back together. Once it was in the dark, on a hill, with 6 little children in the van. Eventually Jim dismantled the petrol tank and found the little plastic circle causing the problem. A few times I had to start the van by connecting the starter motor terminals with a large screw driver. To name just a couple of issues I’ve dealt with. Hopefully that puts in place my feminist credentials.
Anyway there are a few memorable times when great blokes have come to my aid. There was the truck driver whose door I fortuitously knocked on when stuck on a hill in the van. The spare was under a hot water tank Jim had put in the back, with instructions for me to NOT open the back of the van or it would fall on me. The van was facing uphill. I had a car full of kids and a puppy on a busy road, and he did the entire job by himself.
Another time I was stuck, 8 months pregnant, with a flat tyre. The spare was bolted under the tray of the ute. The bloke parked next to me didn’t hestitate – he offered to change the tyre, and was gratefully accepted.
Then there were the two blokes having a nice lunch in a café I had to ask for an uphill push of the dirty van, when only a teenage Marissa and I were in it. I needed to be pushed up and across a busy street and into a side street so I could clutch start the van going downhill. They agreed to do it if I also asked the young man in the tie, looking nervously like he was waiting for a lunch date. He agreed and off we went to the van with me apologizing profusely for how dirty it was (we live in the country up a dirt drive ok). Then they saw all the political slogans on the back, and asked if they had to agree with them all in order to push it. I said they’d be forgiven for not agreeing with any of them if they’d push it – which they did – and I bid them farewell with a cheery window
wave, too scared to get out to thank them.
One morning at 2am, after a trip to emergency with little Ben and a cut foot, I had to ask two blokes to push the van along a flat road to get it started with another clutch start. They were not in the best shape, looking pretty inebriated, but they managed to get enough of a run up for us to get home.
I’m sure these are experiences that many of us can relate to, and although helping with cars is not the only way to be a great bloke of course, it is the way in which I have encountered most often kindness in men.
Another refection on gratitude I have been indulging in over the years is for my ‘other mothers’ as I call them. They are my friends who have helped me raise my children, who have worried with me, rejoiced with me, and looked after my children with theirs when I have been busy, or my children have needed play dates, or I have lost track of time and left them at school or at the bus stop ( I know – shameful).
Most of my children have experienced the comforting warmth of the care of these ‘other mothers’. It has led me to consider how important they are to us, and also how these other mothers appear in the Gospel stories of the life of Jesus. God knew Mary needed them, and He gave them to her.
First there was Elizabeth – someone who also had been gifted a miraculous pregnancy. Mary did not even have to speak and Elizabeth knew the whole story, which was very fortunate because how do you tell someone you are pregnant with the long awaited messiah and Son of God? What a wonderful meeting of mothers that was – from the angelic announcing of their pregnancies to the communication between the unborn boys. Then they had months together of companionship, prayer and praise, as shown in their first interchange. They were part of a very big picture indeed, and had the support of each other in the beginnings of their tasks.
Then there were the mothers on the road with Jesus and Mary and His disciples. We are told they helped by feeding and providing for the fledgling movement following the Messiah. And they were with
Mary at the foot of the cross as she motherhood. We mothers know suffered the agony of his torture that whatever our child goes and death. They understood the through, we go through too. We are reality of what He was called to do, not entirely sane when it comes to and I imagine they had talked much our children. We are biased, with Mary about the future of what emotional and not always rational, was to happen too. Jesus was talking and that is how we are made. I about His impending death, but the think our children need us that way. men did not seem to comprehend They have the world and their what was going on. The women and fathers to give them a reality check, John seemed to have a better grip they have a Mum to be one-sided. on the situation, and were prepared There is a meeting of these two to accompany His heart to the themes. Last night my friend cross. I can feel gratitude for those Malynda drove me to buy some mothers with Mary, and I’m sure jumper leads, helped me start the they have a special place in her car, and then drove ahead of me on heart, as the mothers who our way home, as I didn’t have accompany me have in mine. headlights.
Of course I have also tried to be The car is now in the dock at home ‘another mother’ for the women in for that great bloke in my life, my my life, as all these reflections have husband Jim, to work out what the given me a depth of understanding problem is, and fix it! Thanks and purpose in my shared
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Low Energy Living is Possible
Can we really practice “voluntary poverty” as the world’s richest people? 50% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the world’s 10% of richest people. The wealthiest 15% of the world’s population steal 80% of the world’s wealth. With so much wealth at our control, most people reading this can afford to buy land and cut their personal emissions to half the average Westerner. This is a conscious choice. Do people in actual poverty have choice?
I like to think of myself as committing to a life of conscious consumption. I consume as little as possible in response to Christ’s call to love my neighbours as myself. I see my witnessing in courts and in our cities as a small amount of rent I pay to those who can not speak for themselves, but upon whose lives my wealth is provided.
Giving with Expectation
“Love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” Luke 6:35
This is one of those well-quoted gospel passages that even most non-Christians will have heard thrown around the place. “Give without expecting to receive!” Some may find it challenging, and it is for sure a somewhat strange value to attempt to live your life by in the very exchange-based
society and systems we have built. But Catholic Workers, in our vast diversity of opinions, are almost always founded around this core, very simple and grounding belief. The idea that we are obliged to sacrifice and give of ourselves in whatever way we can to better the lives of those who need us.
Dorothy Day House in Brisbane has been around for 8 years now, and has gone through countless different chapters, each period of change depending entirely on the people that make up the core community.
At times it’s seemed a hellish life, and other times it’s seemed like we had a glimpse of heaven. One thing that seems to get eradicated quickly in our chosen format of living out the Gospel, is any notion a newcomer might have about it being a romantic lifestyle. This might happen when a disgruntled guest is hurling themselves around the house screaming abuse over some trivial matter, or their lovely laptop finds a new home at the Cash Converters down the road. And it’s the reason why I’ve often pondered over my morning coffee this idea of ‘giving without expecting anything in return.’ Because if that was simply all it took to receive the Kingdom, giving of yourself each day and getting nothing back but a bit of silence, I reckon we’d be flying. Give me heaven on a platter mate, we’ve got this down pat. But it turns out this simple teaching is much more complicated than it seems; raising many questions and forcing the making of agonizing decisions that one would never have expected to have to make. The worst part has often been the endless criticism and judgement received from those not actually living in our community home.
The reality is that while I have learned to usually have very little expectations when I give; sadly I have learned to expect on occasion to receive a whole lot of crap served up in the form of abuse, manipulation, deception, the occasional physical altercation, and toxic lies being spread about me and my fellow community members around the wider community. I’ve learned to expect to find myself from time to time lying in a foetal position on the floor of my shared bedroom as I begged God to make my suffering end. I’ve learned to expect that some of my trusted and respected companions would abandon me as I became bitter and confused trying to patch together my trembling and bleeding heart as it fell in pieces off my sleeve. I’ve learned to expect no answers to the complex questions as almost every uninvolved person I knew tried to weigh in with their different opinions of why I have failed. I learned to expect an overwhelming sensation of complete and utter loneliness.
As tragic as this sounds, maybe it’s in getting through this suffering that I can be properly forged, so long as the trauma isn’t too much and I trust in God. Because these are the times in which I might have been gifted with that ever-so-slight taste of Christ’s ultimate suffering on the cross. Left beaten and bare as his friends and comrades abandoned Him to die in humiliation, crying out to his Father in desperation and receiving complete silence. These are the times that can harden us in our resolve and our love, and bring us back to God and the true freedom of faith.
In time and with a lot of prayer and strength I know I will be able to fully forgive those that have made our lives and vocations so much harder than they ever had to be. And I will be able to see the deeper purpose in people seemingly believing lies and despising us. I pray that the demonic, destructive forces that have been assailing me will be no more, and I may receive the ability to once again suffer in grace and gratitude. I pray that those who hurt us will find peace and release from the trauma and suffering that led to this. And I pray that we may all receive the freedom, guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit in these crazy trying times.
God bless, Franz
It was a while ago, but here is the down low on our gathering at the beginning of the year – from Bek
In January, Peter Maurin Farm hosted the bi-annual (almost annual) Catholic Worker gathering. After having to cancel the initial gathering at the last minute due to sudden Covid lockdowns, it was awesome to have the Ellerys and Palmers brave the NSW/QLD borders to be with us.
We had workshops on Hospitality, Charcoal Making, Loneliness, Anxiety, Julian Assange, Militarism, Climate Change and… What is the Catholic Worker?
It was a great mix of old and young faces, I won’t say who fits into what
category. It was exciting to have a few people come who had never
really heard of or only vaguely understood the Catholic Worker vision, and gave us all a chance to re-examine what we think it is. Some
people will argue that it is very clear what it is and there is no room for personal discernment, but as the Catholic Worker Primer points out, “Anyone can call themselves a Catholic Worker,” so I enjoy these events for such idea sharing and clarification of thought.
It was a beautiful chance to be inspired by the wisdom and stories of people who have been in the Catholic Worker or connected to it for over 30 years, and by the new ideas and energy of people just coming into the community now. There was so much love for the world in that small paddock by the chicken pen. So many people willing to give of themselves to make this life a nicer one for others. After a year of Covid, where we were often separated from one another, we got to catch-up, offer support and affirmation, to laugh and complain about living in community, engaging in activism, and maybe simply being human. So thank-you to everyone who came and to our beautiful extended Catholic Worker community who help us through.
Essential to the process of sharing and clarification of thought are cups of tea and plates of food. We were well provided for, with delicious donations of home baked goods and dumpstered delicacies from all quarters. Dad, Ratz and I took on the kitchen duties with some willing helpers and feeding 60+ people from a wood burning stove and biogas digester went surprisingly smoothly. I hear there were some sleeping issues with a very social 2yr old who wanted to keep partying at 3am, but other than that all was
Love Against the Machine is produced by the extended Australian Catholic Worker Community.
To learn more about who we are and what we do pop in on a Wednesday evening to Dorothy Day House at 126 Juliette st, Greenslopes, Brisbane or call Peter Maurin Farm at 07 3425 3003. You can visit them too and probably also Hannah and Josh in Nimbin, but come for a cuppa and we can chat more about it all and what we can do to make this world a better place.